Amid the traffic and congestion of the Miami International Boat Show, attendees will have little trouble finding at least one thing this year: vacant hotel rooms.
Usually a near-sellout on both sides of Biscayne Bay, the busiest weekend for tourism left major hotels with empty beds.
"This is the first time I ever remember rooms being available for a boat show," said Stuart Weintraub, sales director for the Shelborne hotel in South Beach. '"I can tell you we have groups that have been booking for years that are not only not coming to our hotel, but they are not exhibiting" at the show at all.
At first glance, Weintraub shouldn't have much to complain about. Despite the economic crisis, he says about 90 percent of the hotel's 200 rooms are full this weekend.
But with travel to the show down as much as 30 percent, hotels are forced to discount room rates for a weekend that usually brought one of the year's biggest windfalls.
Hoteliers have been bracing for a weak boat show since last fall's economic collapse cut into attendance at similar shows throughout the country.
Walking the docks of a satellite boat show on the Miami waterfront Thursday offered no hint of a slowdown: ruddy-faced salesmen and attendees in Bermuda shorts chatted while would-be buyers removed their shoes for tours on $1 million-and-up yachts.
But veterans of the event noticed less bustle this year.
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